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Panera's stock surges on strong sales

RICHMOND HEIGHTS Mo. Citing stronger-than-anticipated fourth-quarter same-store sales growth, Panera Bread Co. raised its earnings guidance by as much as 9 cents per share, or 11 percent, and also noted that sales trends have continued to dominate in January.

The news sent Panera’s stock to a new 52-week high of $73.95 in trading Thursday afternoon. The stock closed Thursday at $73.41, up 7.3 percent.

The Richmond Heights-based operator and franchisor of 1,380 bakery-cafe restaurants now expects per-share earnings for the December-ended quarter to total between 94 and 95 cents, up from the company’s earlier estimate of between 85 cents and 87 cents per share.

The company also noted that for the first 21 days of January, same-store sales at corporate locations rose 9.4 percent from the same days a year ago. That follows a fourth-quarter same-store sales increase of 7.4 percent when comparing certain weeks in the 13-week 2009 quarter to identical weeks in the 14-week 2008 quarter.

“Simply put, our strategy is working and our customers continue to respond to Panera with enthusiasm.” Ron Shaich, Panera chairman and chief executive, said

The revised fourth-quarter earnings-per-share number, as well as the previous estimate, include a 5-cents-a-share charge for asset retirement, Panera said.

Officials said the company will update its full-year 2010 guidance when it releases full results Feb. 11.

Contact Al Liddle at [email protected].

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